The road to an Associateship with the RPS

Generally speaking I am an ambitious kind of person. I get fixed on a goal and rarely do I fail. Undertaking the journey to gain my ARPS started by gaining my LRPS. So many of the lessons from that process formed the foundation for my ARPS.

In June 2014, I took a trip to Uganda to photograph the work of my sister-in-law’s charity, Soft Power Education. It was the most challenging photographic project I had undertaken for a variety of reasons; location, weather conditions and time constraints but a few.

When planning the trip I had already decided that if the images I captured were good enough I’d put together a panel for an ARPS. I would be submitting an applied panel as the trip was to document the work and people of the charity.

You can read more about my trip on the blog here, or in my book here.

After the trip and with my photos backed up and the book created, planning on my panel began. At this point I was already really familiar with the material I had to work with. My first task was to decide the content of my panel. I’d had a fruitful trip capturing many facets of the charity’s work. Should I create a narrative showing the problems the charity faces? The work they are doing to solve those problems? Or maybe their work in rural communities? I decided that I wanted a panel that represented everything the charity does. The answer was simple. The people. The human element is what connects every aspect the charity.

My next task was to pull together a selection of images that represented the diverse group of people involved with and support the charity. Then I discarded those that, although may have been good images, might let down the panel on technical merit, blow highlights, soft focus etc.

Over the next few months (yes months), I experimented with different arrangements and tried different crops of the images to see what did and didn’t work.

With a selection of images I felt worked, I proofed them at the size I wanted to present to make sure they were up to the required standard. This is a really important step. I don’t believe you can really judge how an image will print only looking at it digitally. Onscreen you are looking at tiny dots of projected light. A good quality print is physical, at your chosen size and on the substrate of your choosing. Adding a character to the image that you don’t get onscreen.

With my images proofed, I was confident to go and start getting second opinions. I started by talking through my work with a fellow member of the RPS Documentary group.

The RPS online advisory service was my next step. This provided me with some really valuable feedback that lead me to change 30-40% of my panel. With hindsight, I felt some of this feedback was very subjective, so I became wary of relying too heavily on it. An Associateship review panel is made up of 5 people, so a single point of view would not cut it.

Now I’m not a (good) gambler. If I do place a bet it rarely comes in. I like sure things, further feedback was defiantly necessary! So I contacted a Fellow of the RPS that had helped me on my LRPS. He kindly looked through my work, the online feedback and then gave me some very helpful pointers. Nothing too drastic, this time I only changed 3 images in the main panel, and found a couple of new spares. I was now ready to attend an Advisory day.

Firstly, I needed to print and mount my images. I chose to commercially print them, using a company I’d used in the past, The Print Space, located in Shoreditch, London. I chose C-Type prints,  real photographic prints as opposed to giclee (inkjet) prints, on semi gloss paper. I had already had a couple of test prints done, so I was sure of the quality and consistency, a really important point, because I was likely to need a few reprints after the advisory day. Commercial printing is not the cheapest option, but quality is paramount, and I wasn’t willing to compromise. Mounts from Cotswold Mounts combined with excellent prints, I was confident I had at least a couple of the required boxes ticked!

There is much debate over the size of prints to present for an ARPS. I chose to print 10″x15″. Reasonably large. My final decision to present at this size was all the images were sharp and the required quality. End of discussion.

Applied is a popular category as it covers so many genres of photography and I was struggling to secure a date to attend an advisory day. By the good graces of the Southern Regions organiser, I managed to get a place on their Applied advisory day in January 2016.

On the day I was rather nervous. Having spent many hours labouring over this panel, I was finally presenting prints to a group of people that would share their opinions on my work. Including the Applied panel Chairperson, Vanessa Slawson FRPS.  

As it turned out my hard work had paid off. My images we well received. We tried swapping out some images with my spares or changing position to see if the panel layout could be improved. A couple of minor technical error were highlighted and a change of crop on one image was suggested. I was over the moon. The most significant piece of feedback suggested for my Associate submission was not to my images. It was to my statement of intent. Although only a short 150 word statement, it’s a powerful and important part of the submission. It defines the context of the images being presented. The proposed adjustment to my statement lead me to rewrite it 6 times prior to my final assessment, but getting it right made all the difference.  

The advisory day also allowed me to meet with other members of the RPS and discuss all manner of things photographic, making my long journey really worth it.  

My assessment was a little over two months away, so I could take my time to make the suggested changes and re-write my statement of intent. After reprinting and mounting I checked all my images very closely against the Distinctions handbook and that was that. I was ready to present.

Assessment day arrived and I had a 3 hour drive to RPS HQ, Fenton House in Bath. I set out with plenty of time to spare, hating to be late. However, the M25 and M4 put a spanner in the works, and thanks to various traffic problems and weather conditions I arrived well over an hour late.

Sitting nervously waiting for my panel to be presented, I watched as two panels were presented and neither being recommended. The gentleman to my right informed me no one had be recommended so far. This didn’t inspire confidence!

Then it happened, I saw my images going up one by one. Each placed on the rails as per my hanging plan. So far so good! Then the deputy chair read out my statement of intent, but it didn’t sound like my words, they were all wrong! ‘Sorry’ he announced, ‘wrong one’! Oh thank goodness! I thought I’d put the wrong printouts in my folio box but all was fine. As my correct statement was read out, five eagle eye’d panel members intently scrutinised my work from their seats, then one by one they rose up and moved in. Each picking up my images and closely inspecting them. From the back of the room I watched, rigid in my seat, unknowing of the thoughts running through their minds. One by one, having inspected each and every image, they took their seats.

Vanessa Slawson, the panel chair, then asked for an initial vote then for one of the panellists to share his comments. Instant delight filled me as he highlighted the images he liked and some very positive comments on the overall panel. The thought ran through my mind “I’ve done it”. Then Vanessa asked a second person to speak, and again more positive comments. I though again, “Seriously. I have done it”! Then came the counter opinions from the third panellist who wasn’t so enthusiastic. Questioning why I had or had not done certain apparently obvious adjustments when taking my photos. “He should have moved that out of shot”, and “if he’d moved this girls head or changed the position of her are…”. Doubt now filled my mind.

A fourth opinion joined the debate and this is when I believe my statement of intent made all the difference. The panel member pointed out that my panel was a documentary, photographing real people as life happened. “Thank you” I thought. He pointed out that interfering with the people and the elements in frame wasn’t always possible or right to do so. I had been working in schools and you can’t direct children during their lessons! The key words in my statement were ‘document’ and ‘their environment’.

It was at this point Vanessa asked to continue the discussion out of the room. Nothing unusual, it had already happen a couple of times today. After the door was shut behind them, people started to talk quietly talk about my images, I was still rigid in my seat. The wait seemed endless. After about 10 minutes they returned. A final vote was taken and then Vanessa announced “I’m please to say this panel has been recommended…”

Relief.

The hard work, constantly questioning my images, all the advice, checking, checking and rechecking every detail had paid off.

I work in advertising and the agency I work for has number of different mantras.  My personal favourite is “Difficult is worth doing”.

It certainly is!

Below are my images and the hanging plan.

I took these images to support Soft Power Education, please take a minute to visit their website here. And read about my trip to Uganda on the project blog here.

Jhy Turley ARPS Hanging Plan

Silence in the Square

Every year, we as a nation remember those who have fallen defending our way of life. At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a Two Minute Silence is observed on Armistice Day, the day which marks the end of the First World War.

This year The Royal British Legion asked members of the Royal Photographic Society to go along and document the hard work of their collectors. The people who put in the hours around central London, collecting funds for the Poppy Appeal; helping the current and ex-serving personnel in terms of their welfare, comradeship, representation and remembrance.

I went along to Trafalgar Square in London for Silence in the Square, a morning of music and readings that preceded the 2 minute silence at 11am.

Below are a few of the portraits I captured of the veterans, volunteers, collectors and general public, plus a few moments that caught my eye.

Please have a look at my website for more shots from the morning here:

Silence in the Square Portraits
Silence in the Square Moments

For me, the most rewarding part of the experience was meeting so many wonderful people, hearing their experiences and how important the work of The Royal British Legion is to them. Find out more about the their work and the charity here.

_MG_9446_MG_9796_MG_9454_MG_9791_MG_9688_MG_9729

RPS Licentiateship

On Monday I achieved my LRPS. What the hell is that, I hear you ask! Very good question, I shall explain; L stands for Licentiateship, RPS, the Royal Photographic Society. The Licentiateship is the first level of distinction that the RPS award and is based on a panel of ten images that the society recognise as being of a specified standard judged on a wide variety of criteria. It has taken me a year to get here and it has been worth every second.

But why? Quite simply I wanted feedback and constructive criticism about my photography. I needed to know what I was doing right and more importantly wrong. I also wanted recognition for what I had achieved. Who doesn’t!

So with a lot of hard work I put together a panel of images and headed off to Bath for an advisory day. I had checked and rechecked the criteria, reviewed all the example panels available online, read through the forums and done my homework. I was confident. Over confident! It’s not that easy. The panel members are harsh critics and rightly so. They inspected every aspect of my images, I will spare you all the details and their comments. However I had the basis of a panel.

Now, probably a little prematurely, I had already booked an assessment. Thinking of course that to gain the entry level distinction was a mere stepping stone on the road to higher achievements. It didn’t take long to realise the error of my ways. I set about addressing each and every comment from the advisory day, and one image at a time, rebuilt my panel of images. With limited time and access to another advisory day, I submitted my new panel online. I eagerly awaited the good news that I had a panel of images worthy of assessment.

How disappointed I was. Again I had underestimated what was required. Some of the feedback contradicted that of the advisory day as well as highlighting other possible problem areas. The key to success was slowly becoming clear, I must leave no doubt in the mind of the judges. A difficult think to achieve when working with in a subjective creative medium. After some more revisions to my panel I posted it to the RPS forum and was surprised to get a lot of very helpful comments and feedback from other RPS members that had recently taken their LPRS. Of course, their experience is limited and their views could differ wildly from that of the final panel.

Now at this point it was clear what I should do. Start afresh. By happy coincidence I came in to contact with Peter Hayes a Fellow of the RPS. He offered to help. He reviewed my previous panels, and a new one I had painstakingly pulled together. Very kindly he gave me the benefit of his experience, pointed out some weak areas and suggested some helpful changes to the arrangement of my submission.

Assessment day. Sitting at the back of the room, I was watching the panels go up and their assessments. My panel wasn’t due until the afternoon session, so I was enjoying the work, successes and insight to what I would be going through later on. Then, I was asked if it would be ok to bring my panel forward. Now this happened on my advisory day, slipped in right before lunch. The panel sitting there probably weary and in desperate need of food and a pee. Was this a bad omen? What the hell. “Of course”, I answered. And there it was, my panel going up one by one. It was like time standing still. As with all the previous panels, the panel members all stood up and started to inspect every minute detail. My eyes darted from one person to the next as each one surveyed and pointed to different points on each and every print. One by one they sat down until the final judge gave her view of the panel to everyone in the room. I don’t remember the details, but there were no negative comments. She sat down. Then for what seemed like a lifetime the chair person reviewed each of the panel forms before finally standing up and announcing that the panel of images would be recommend for an LPRS.

Relief and joy finally hit me. I had done it. And here they are, the ten images that make up my successful LRPS panel.

Final Hanging Plan

Eye

Bread and Cheese

Electrick Building

Flowers

Violins and Cellos

locked hart

Untitled

LFT Session 2 03

To the Left

Stripey blue deck chairs

You can see more of my photography on my Flickr photostream here or on my website jhyturey.com

RPS London 1853 24-hour challenge

To celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) the London region held a 24 hour marathon photo shoot, with various satellite shoots happening all over london.

I Love London

Starting at 4pm on Saturday 19th January 2013, the event kicked off at Café in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. Over the next 24 hours we explored The West End, Embankment, Soho, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, The Strand, Piccadilly, Covent Garden, China Town, The City, Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Kings Cross and many places in-between. Finally arriving at The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) at 4pm on Sunday 20th, exactly 160 years after the first RPS meeting. Several challenges we’re in play, 1853, best shot of the hour and shoot the Monopoly board.

Along with my close friend Lee Gadd, we set off for the entire 24 hours, only missing the final hour due to the heavy snow and National Rails unreliability. We endured bitter winds, cold streets, security guards, tired feet, aching backs and the snow. It was worth it. I enjoyed every minute, got some great images and saw London in a new way .

Here are a selection of my images from the 24 hours. A couple of which I am hoping will lead me to success on my upcoming LPRS assessment.

Untitled

Electrick Building

To the Left

Tree watching

Red

Shard in the Night

Brick Lane Brick-A-Brack

Lost red balloon

Light fantastic

Snowy Walk

Comments and feedback are as always welcome. I hope you like my images. You can see more of them here.

More info on the RPS can be found here.

To find out more about the RPS London region click here.

Images by the other participants of the night can be seen here.